Letter to the Editor: Brown County State’s Attorney joins others statewide seeking to overturn assault weapons ban

Michael Hill

Brown County State's Attorney Michael Hill | Photo courtesy of Brown County State's Attorney's Office

I am proud to join the state’s attorneys of 32 counties by signing on to Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas A. Haine’s brief he filed with the Illinois Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the state’s ban on certain types of weapons.

The Amici Curiae brief, also known as a “friend of the court” brief, asks the Supreme Court to strike down the state’s so-called Assault Weapons Ban. The legislature passed the ban in January during a lame-duck session, and Gov. JB Pritzker signed it into law.

Haine is the lead attorney for the Amici Curiae brief. In its conclusion, Haine’s brief states as follows:

Many Americans of good will continue to debate the merits of our country’s broad-based culture of gun ownership. Some fear that broad gun rights facilitate violence by criminals. Others contend that while the law should take aggressive steps to stop criminals, it must also respect responsible citizens’ right to own commonplace firearms as an effective means of self-defense against those very same criminals, making the public more secure, not less.

While this debate will undoubtedly endure, at least this much has been settled since 1791: The Second Amendment — “the very product of an interest balancing by the” founding generation, which ratified it — “elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms” for self-defense. Bruen, 142 S.Ct. at 2131 (citing Heller, 554 U.S. at 635). Therefore, no state may “prohibit … an entire class of ‘arms’ that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for [a] lawful purpose.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 628.

Yet the (assault weapons ban) bans entire categories of firearms and firearm components (i.e., magazines) obviously in common use for lawful purposes today. It is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, as authoritatively read by Heller and Bruen both. Certain firearms – like the AR-15 – may seem strange and menacing to those with little experience with firearms, but they are quite normal and valuable to many millions of responsible, law-abiding Americans. In fact, it is the experience of Amici as the chief law-enforcement officers of our respective counties that the typical use of such firearms is self-defense and recreation — for which they are quite well-suited — and not violent crime.

Like all Americans, Amici are horrified by the mass shootings and urban violence our nation has experienced. These are heartbreaking reminders of how much pain and sorrow violent individuals with evil intentions can cause. As prosecutors, we go to work every day to deter such crimes, do justice for victims, put those who would do harm to our communities behind bars and protect everyone by strengthening the justice system and the rule of law.

It is in service to that same rule of law that we urge this honorable court to support all the rights enshrined in the Constitution, including the right of the people to own commonplace firearms so they can defend hearth and home and live freely with the means to secure their own ultimate safety.

On March 3, Macon County Associate Judge Rodney S. Forbes ruled the ban violates the equal-protection and special-legislation clauses of the Illinois Constitution. Pritzker is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

The ban outlaws the sale or manufacture of several firearms labeled as “assault weapons” and certain attachments for firearms, along with .50-caliber rifles and .50-caliber cartridges.

People who already own such a firearm are allowed to keep them under the new law, but the owners of such weapons will be required to register them with Illinois State Police by Jan. 1, 2024.

As the duly-elected state’s attorney of Brown County, I have a duty to seek justice. That duty includes protecting and defending the Constitutional rights of all citizens.

The brief is posted at the website of the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office and on the Illinois Supreme Court’s web page for high-profile cases.

Other state’s attorney’s joining Haine in the brief are:

  • Lucas Fanning, Calhoun County
  • Aaron Kaney, Carroll County
  • Kyle Hutson, Clark County
  • J.D. Brandmeyer, Clinton County
  • Eric St. Ledger, Edwards County
  • Aaron Jones, Effingham County
  • Douglas Dyhrkopp, Gallatin County
  • Justin Hood, Hamilton County
  • Bobi James, Hancock County
  • Rachel Mast, Henderson County
  • Catherine Runty, Henry County
  • James Treccia, Jasper County
  • Sean Featherstun, Jefferson County
  • Ben Goetten, Jersey County
  • Chris Allendorf, Jo Daviess County
  • Tambra Cain, Johnson County
  • Scott Rueter, Macon County
  • Tim Hudspeth, Marion County
  • Grace Simpson, Mercer County
  • Ryan Webb, Monroe County
  • Mike Rock, Ogle County
  • David Searby, Perry County
  • Lisa Casper, Pulaski County
  • James Kelley, Randolph County
  • Chuck Laegeler, Schuyler County
  • Tyler Tripp, Union County
  • Jacqueline Lacy, Vermilion County
  • Thomas Siegel, Warren County
  • Daniel Janowski, Washington County
  • Kevin Kakac, Wayne County
  • Denton Aud, White County

Michael Hill
State’s Attorney of Brown County
Mount Sterling, Illinois

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